(We present DGR‘s review of the new album by the Brazilian band Abstracted, which was released by M-Theory Audio this past April.)
It’s hard to remember how I came across Brazil’s Abstracted and their 2022 release Atma Conflux. The best guess would likely be the eye-catching cover art with its hues of blue and green. Cover art has often served as an impetus to looking into a band we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with, though we are also the sorts who constantly dig around the underground for new music. I’ve dived head-first into releases for dumber reasons, and my review history here is a record of my atrocities.
Atma Conflux is an interesting prospect for Abstracted. Officially, it’s their first full-length but also feels like a new debut overall. Prior to the April release of this album, the band had put out a debut EP called Ophidian in 2015 and since then, a small sprinkling of singles – all of which have found their way onto the album.
With such a time-gap between releases you get the sense that this is a group who’ve spent a long time in the musical forge, working on their songs and playing with what direction they wanted to pursue musically. You also get this idea when you look at Atma Conflux‘s run time, divided up between seven songs and clocking in at nearly an hour and five minutes. If nothing else on Abstracted‘s first full length, they are clearly ambitious as hell.
Of course since you’ve read every single thing this site publishes and have spent numerous hours poring over our increasingly wordy reviews, you’ll remember the recent Soilwork review wherein the opening paragraph observes that an hour and five is a long time for an album – and it still is here. It’s a tall ask that in makes the initial gaze upon a release that much more intense. When a band give in to their indulgences like that, the release has to work just that much harder to justify itself and to reward the listener’s devotion of time. Doing so on your first full-length is brave.
Given that three of Abstracted‘s previously released singles have fallen into the full-length, there are multiple moments throughout that feel like snapshots in time for the band. You can hear the shift from technically oriented prog and thrash into their current incarnation, which adds even more elements to the overall stew. Atma Conflux has so many varying shades of other bands in it that you’ll hear everything from the most indulgent Dream Theater-esque drifts into walls of notes and odd time signatures, and to a somewhat more apt comparison that has them somehow landing in the same playground as a band like Persefone – which is extra fun when you read their own influences-description on their Bandcamp page. It’s a very “yes, that makes sense” moment after the first few passes with Atma Conflux.
Atma Conflux thus has the dynamic of being seven seemingly different snapshots of a group. It starts with “Introspection – Ego Death”. Clocking in at north of thirteen minutes this is a song that traverses a lot of ground and also contains a good amount of clean singing (the clean-sung parts of the album as a whole are at some of their most prominent in this song). The group employ a variety of different vocal approaches – even within the same song here – but you’ll definitely begin wondering what in the world you’ve wandered into within those opening minutes.
“Introspection – Ego Death” dances through a lot of genres within – again for the people in the back – its thirteen minutes, and it lays the groundwork for just how far-reaching Abstracted want to be with this full-length. The song has some of the album’s heaviest moments, but also its most prog, its most power-metal-esque, and even its most ambient. Put bluntly, they didn’t reach thirteen minutes-plus here by being a doom band.
There isn’t a single song on Atma Conflux that clocks in under five minutes though, and a few of them clear eight-plus with ease, which is why the next three in the sequence being shorter and punchier numbers gives Abstracted the sense of taking multiple approaches across this album. “Wither To Dust”, for instance, takes on the whole idea of expanding boundaries musically and just crushes it under a flattened palm, aiming to pick things up with a faster number right after you’ve already made multiple launches into musical space and back from the opener.
The biggest debt to be paid, and one the band themselves acknowledge, is to Between The Buried And Me. You’ll hear so much of that band’s influence throughout Atma Conflux that by the end you’ll have found that Abstracted are at a cross-section of Between The Buried And Me‘s long-form songwriting, Persefone‘s spiritual wanderings and love for keyboard work, Gorod‘s angular death metal (the opening segment of “Prospection – Ethereal Rebirth” is right out of that playbook), and the intricate maneuvers of most prog metal.
The result is a volitile mix. You wind up with songs that are short – by Abstracted standards – and punchy, ready to leap into the ring with the progressive death metal world, and then the whole back half of Atma Conflux gives in to ambition, and every song exceeds eight-plus minutes, sometimes significantly. “Eightfold Path” wanders to the near-ten-minute mark by effectively slamming three songs together with an extended instrumental section in the center to stand in contrast to the prog-death metal bookends of the song. It’s also within “Eightfold Path” that Abstracted‘s taste for vocal interplay becomes much more prominent as the alternating styles combine more often during the meatier part of this album than before.
Atma Conflux has all the hallmarks of a debut album that is reaching for the stars, including all the bumps that are implied by such a statement. Abstracted are basically starting fresh with this release, with their lineup having shifted, and many new faces appearing in between their EP and this record’s April release. Like many other far-reaching debuts, not everything works, and as mentioned throughout, the long run time is a lot to ask. The songs are all technically impressive and Abstracted are working very, very hard to justify going well into the upper-reaches of song lengths. It has that “first full release syndrome”, where they get almost there so many times that they’re scraping right at the finish line.
However, by heaving so much at the listener the number of moments that don’t quite land are just as easily covered by moments that do – so there is a very clear sense of wonder to Atma Conflux. It’s why, even though the band don’t directly cite them, it’s hard not to think of Persefone‘s early works, because they went through a similar metamorphosis. The shotgun approach is bound to leave listeners in awe and Abstracted have that same dynamic going for them.
They occupy a strong cross-section of space within the metal world on this first full-length and it’s one that reveals a ton of potential to be expanded upon. They’re already so close here that whatever sins or indulgences in the increasingly long instrumental passages can be forgiven or even overlooked, because you’ll also find so many differing things to enjoy. Even though Atma Conflux is the band’s second signifiant release, it’s a great launching point for this incarnation of Abstracted and one that promises so much for the future that it might just well be worth it to keep an eye on them.